I commit the four grave sins of the Democratic Party. I am a middle-aged, straight, white man. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Now, of course, you may have caught on that I’m being sarcastic there, but I’m constantly surprised at how many liberal men really are self-loathing. Here’s a comment I got from one of them recently after I wrote a piece on identity politics: “Consider this about identity politics: This city, county, state, country, world have traditionally been governed by white men and that hasn’t been great for people who are not white men. So let’s try to get more women, people of color, and other traditionally unrepresented groups involved in politics.”
First off, I don’t think my reader really means what he says. Does he really mean to imply that he would rather have another Clarence Thomas than another Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court, or Betsy DeVos running the Department of Education rather than Arne Duncan, or Rep. Janel Brandtjen (who is demanding a “forensic audit” of Wisconsin’s election just like the one being done in Arizona by Cyber Ninjas) running the Assembly Elections Committee instead of, say, Rep. Gordon Hintz?
What my reader is really saying, I suspect, is that he wants the surface diversity of skin color and gender along with a rigid conformity of views. This sort of thing came up famously during the Women’s March of January, 2017. Organizers split over whether to welcome pro-life and other conservative women into the fold. It turned out that it wasn’t really a women’s march that the initial organizers had in mind, but a liberal women’s march.
I don’t disagree with the idea of having more people from all walks of life involved in politics. But I would say that the problem we have with politics at the national level isn’t a lack of women or people of color, but the dominance of a group of people with a strikingly similar educational background. Eight of the nine Supreme Court justices are graduates of Harvard or Yale. Ninety-five percent of members of Congress have a college degree while only one-third of Americans do. No less than 55 members, a little over 10%, of Congress went to one school: Georgetown.
And at the local level here in Madison, pressing for surface-level diversity is a solution in search of a problem. Women and minorities are over-represented compared to the population as a whole. Of the seven Madison Metropolitan School Board members, six are women and one is a Black man. Slightly more than half of the Madison City Council is people of color and just under half are women. That’s great, but if they’re doing a demonstrably better or worse job of running things than any group that came before them that would be news to me.
And as for real diversity — that is contrasting points of view — it would be easier for Donald Trump to pass through the eye of a needle than for a conservative to get elected to either of these bodies.
So, my first point is that when liberals say they want diversity, what they really mean is that they want to see people of different skin colors and gender identities in seats of power, but they want to hear them all say the same things.
My second point is that, if you want to be fair, then if you’re going to blame men for all the world’s problems, you have to credit them for everything that’s gone right. I would take that deal because, as Steven Pinker points out in his excellent book “Enlightenment Now,” the world is undergoing an unprecedented and rapid improvement in just about everything. War, disease, poverty and human misery in general — while still present (see Afghanistan) — are all at their lowest levels in human history and quickly declining.
And this is thanks to science. liberal enlightenment values and capitalism, all inventions mostly of men. You’re welcome.
And as for progressive legislation, it was Congresses full of men who ended slavery and passed the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing equal protection of the laws, a concept used in civil rights legislation for a century and a half. It was a Congress full of men who gave women the vote. And it was Congresses still dominated by men who passed New Deal, Great Society and voting rights legislation.
But let’s get serious. If you think it’s unfair and slightly ridiculous to credit only half the population with all the advances in human history, I would hasten to agree. So, can we also put to rest the equally ridiculous notion that all the horrors in the world are the responsibility of that same half?
Let me conclude, as I often do, by coming down to practical politics. Democrats are losing more elections than they need to lose in part because their brand is so tarnished among men.
The strategy of doubling down on women and minorities while dissing guys at every opportunity is not working. Consider this:
Despite all of Trump’s awful race baiting during four years in office he still did better with Black men in 2020 than he did in 2016 and that just continues a steady erosion in support for Democrats among Black men.
The same is true for Latino men. The overall Hispanic vote for Democrats eroded by four points between 2016 and 2020, but it absolutely crashed in Florida, where Joe Biden won the Latino vote by only five points, compared to 26 for Hilary Clinton. This cost Biden the state and the shift was driven by Latino men.
The 2014 Democratic candidate for governor, Mary Burke, lost white men, who made up 44% of the vote in Wisconsin that year, by 24 points. Had she lost them by a still substantial 11 points, she would have won the election. (I wasn’t able to do the same analysis for Tony Evers’ 2018 election because I couldn’t find the numbers, but I’d be surprised if they weren’t pretty much the same.)
All of which is to say that the Democrats don’t need to win the male vote; they just need to not lose it by this much. But you can’t lose a demographic this big by these margins and hope to make it up by winning other groups by overwhelming margins. And worse for the Dems, a couple of those other groups (Black men and Hispanics) are trending in the opposite direction.
Democrats would do well to distance themselves from the men-bashing of the hard-left. And liberal men would do well to stop with the self-loathing already.
Welcome to the 184th consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!